Maybe your youth ministry program is going great and is exactly as you hoped it would be. Or -- perhaps your youth ministry is on the edge of disaster and you fear one more problem might send it off the cliff. In either case, do you dare to RETHINK what you are doing and open your group to a new movement of God's Spirit?
Not too many years ago, in my previous life, I spent my days in classrooms with gifted students teaching them how to think creatively -- teaching them that there is always more than one solution to a problem, more than one way to look at a challenge, more than one answer to a question. Our ministries could benefit from this sort of attitude, keeping us from getting stuck in ruts and routines and allowing us to hear a new word from God, a new call to action, a new experience of the Spirit. So, whether you are the most successful youth ministry in town or your group is on the verge of implosion, why not take the challenge to gather your group together and have some fun RETHINKING who, what, where, and how you are called to be as a ministry?
Below you will find one of the most powerful brainstorming tools for helping you to do just that. S.C.A.M.P.E.R. is an easy-to-remember acronym where each letter represents a creative-thinking approach that can lead your group through a process of dreaming, imagining, looking for new ideas and accessing solutions to current challenges.
- SUBSTITUTE - Can you replace part of your problem or process? Can you substitute one person or activity for another? Can you change a procedure, practice, attitude, or even emotion? Ex: What if we switch our middle school and high school leaders? What if we replace game time with prayer time? What if we took a mission trip instead of a ski trip?
- COMBINE - Can you combine two or more parts of your group/schedule/activities to form something new? Can your resources be combined to reduce your time or required person-power? What can you fuse, link together, join? Ex: What if we joined forces with other churches? What if we teamed up with the outreach committee of our church to plan the next mission trip? Can we meet at a time other groups are using the building and share resources? What if dinner and Bible study happened together? What if we combined our choir trip and our mission trip?
- ADAPT - Is there already a solution out there that you can use? Who else is doing something similar? What good ideas can you borrow? Ex: What good ideas can we incorporate from other youth ministries? From sports teams? From businesses? From the Bible?
- MAGNIFY - How could you do things bigger? What can you expand? How could you multiply your group size, activities, or attitudes? Ex: What if we met more often? What would happen if our meetings ran longer? What would we do if we had an unlimited budget? What if we had twice as many small groups?
- PUT TO OTHER USES - What if you used your current resources for something new or different? Ex: What if we focused our youth ministry entirely on mission and service work rather than games and lock-ins? What if we turned our youth room into a place to house the homeless one night a week? What if we held a sleep-over on the church lawn? What if parents took on active roles in the youth ministry beyond just dropping teens off and picking them up?
- ELIMINATE (or MINIFY) - What if you reduced or eliminated some part of our program/activities/problem? What stresses could you do away with? What can you remove without altering your quality and purpose? Ex: What would happen if we eliminated game time from our gatherings? What if it didn't cost youth anything to go to camp or on the mission trip? What if we didn't serve junk food anymore? What if we divided the teens into even smaller groups (e.g. Grades 6-8, Grades 9-10, Grades 11-12)? What if our meeting time was shorter?
- REARRANGE - How might you reverse or rearrange the problem, schedule, process? How can you turn a negative into a positive? Ex: What if we completely reversed our regular youth group meeting schedule? What would happen? What if youth group met right after Sunday morning worship instead of Sunday night, or vice versa? What if we had "Guys only" and "Girls only" meetings sometimes?
Does this SCAMPER stuff really work? Yes. I've used it many times on my own or with groups and it always leads to solutions and ideas we would otherwise likely never have uncovered. Remember - in a good brainstorm you are going for quantity, not quality! Just have fun generating as many ideas as you can and worry about evaluating and sifting through them later. "Later" is the best time to look at the possible ideas and solutions and ask "Do these fit who we are as a ministry? Do these help us follow Christ more fully?" Who knows where this process might lead you. Give it a try. --Brian